Our last session ended after our heroes (the player characters) defended Westfall from a group of Shadar-kai raiders. I first went around the table and asked each player say a few things about how their characters spent the following few days.
I next introduced the central McGuffin: a previously encountered bandit named Nightcloak had escaped and kidnapped one of the town’s children. The party’s investigation led them to “Clintok’s Ranch,” in a way I didn’t anticipate. They didn’t know that an invitation from Clintok was waiting for them back in town; instead they sent the party assassin and the party monk in for reconnaissance. They quickly discovered that Clintok and his fellow halfings are an odd bunch: they wear animal masks that seem to correspond with their jobs at the ranch. This was inspired by the Granbretan empire in Michael Moorcock’s The History of the Runestaff .
The first encounter of the day was an audition. At the snap of a finger, ten of Clintok’s minions attacked (remember that scene from Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome?).
Clintok did not engage in the battle, though the assassin nearly changed that in a moment of eagerness. I had his stats ready, just in case. From my perspective, this was a moment of big decision for the campaign. While I didn’t expect them to kill Clintok, and I have big plans for him later, I wasn’t about to say ‘no.’ It would have been a tough battle against a solo, but they could have prevailed and there would have been long term, interesting consequences.
Clintok revealed that the Nightcloak not only kidnapped a baby from town, he stole an artifact from Clintok’s private collection. He offered a deal: if they retrieved the item, he would use his connections to clear their criminal records. He then gave them an arcane compass-like device that would help them locate the artifact. They soon learned that in the right hands, the compass would also let them see through the eyes of the artifact’s carrier, and listen to his surface thoughts.
Their pursuit took them in into a nearby fey infused forest. This forest has been a name on a map for over a year, so I was excited to let their characters get in and explore a bit. I emphasized how dark and weird the forest was, with an uncontrolled, random feel. While the forest wasn’t sick, it felt a little like the bad side of the warden’s hometown.
The forest grew dense, and the sprites suddenly gathered into two aggressive swarms (Tinkerbell’s friends were mean!), and the party was ambushed by a Duregar named Doc (in the forest?!) with his pet fey panthers. As with most good Dungeons and Dragons 4th edition encounters, there was a moment in the battle, after the monsters had used their recharge and encounter powers, and things were looking a little bleak for the player characters. However, used solid tactics and won the day without too much drama.
I had one more encounter prepared for that session, but by then I knew we didn’t have time. We had started later than I’d hoped, and the party had spent quite awhile investigating Clintok’s ranch. That allowed me to end the session on a cliff-hanger.
The forest soon cleared and the party came upon a house constructed of gold, platinum, gems, jewels and magical weapons. In short, there was everything an adventurer could desire, ready to be plucked. There was movement inside the building, but they couldn’t see any details. After one of the PCs tossed a pebble at one of the windows, an old elfish woman opened the door and introduced herself (“Miss White”). – end of session.